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High School Inclusion is Easier!

High School Inclusion is Easier!

By Guest Author: Christi Kasa

"Inclusion is too hard in high school." "We can include him now, but it will become too difficult in high school." Many involved in inclusive education share ideas such as these when thinking about how inclusion will proceed as students with disabilities enter high school. As a high school inclusion facilitator, researcher, and educational consultant, I have found that when designing successful inclusion for students with disabilities, it is actually easier to implement inclusive practices at the high school level.

The following is a list of practices that make high school inclusion easier. This list does not include all of the elements necessary for successful inclusion, but highlights key aspects that make inclusion easier at the high school level.

Ease of Schedule

  • High school offers a more rich variety of classes and topics than elementary and middle school, providing the opportunity to choose classes that focus on a student's individual interests and strengths. Students can take classes such as computers, science, drama, business, etc.
  • When students are included at the elementary level, pull out services and breaks from the general education classroom should be avoided so that students with disabilities do not miss content and also avoid the social stigma of being taken out of the classroom community. At the high school level it is much easier to accommodate for needed breaks throughout the day with the use of a study hall period. Not all students with disabilities need this break, but for some study hall can be used for:
    • Sensory break
    • Catching up on homework
    • Pre-teaching or reviewing content
    • Literacy instruction at the student's instructional level

Big Idea Teaching

  • High school teachers have the opportunity to focus on one curricular subject and select the core areas to focus on for the semester or year
  • High school teachers can choose key concepts from content area units within each subject
    Big idea teaching graphic
Peer Tutors
  • Many high schools are adopting peer tutoring programs where high school students are trained to support students with disabilities in academic classes. Using these types of supports provides students with disabilities the supports they need to succeed while interacting with their peers
Life Skills or Functional Skills
  • In the field of special education there is often a debate on what to teach. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees that students with disabilities have the right to access the general education curriculum. Students with disabilities have Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals that also need to be met. High school is a perfect environment for students with disabilities to work on their IEP goals in the naturally occurring routines of the general education classroom. For example:
    • Communication skills can be practiced in a theater class, clubs, or any class that utilizes cooperative learning
    • Money skills can be practiced while working in the school store, or when selling prom tickets or valentine grams.
    • Dressing skills can be practiced while dressing out for physical education
    • Problem solving can be imbedded into any general education class
Curriculum/Social Action
  • In high school, students often learn of historical events such as The Holocaust, the civil rights movement, and the women's rights movement. These events teach students how United States citizens have experienced discrimination and fought for their rights as Americans. The study of these events provides the opportunity for high school students to learn about the history of Americans with disabilities, political action that has been taken to ensure their rights, and current events related to the contributions of Americans with disabilities. This is a part of history that is often left out of high school curriculum.
Extra Curricular
  • At the high school level, there is often a wide array of clubs, sports, and events that students can choose from based on interests, talents, and strengths. Students with disabilities struggle at times to find friends. Joining a club or sport based on their strengths and talents provides them the opportunity to participate alongside others who have similar interests and provides the opportunity for students without disabilities to get to know the student with a disability in a new way.

When we look at all the practical ways that inclusive practices can be applied in high school, it is clear that many opportunities exist throughout the high school setting. What is really needed is a shift in perspective, moving from "Inclusion is too hard in high school," to embracing everything that high school curriculum and extracurricular activities have to offer all students, including students with disabilities. The old, status quo attitude about inclusion in high school being too hard no longer makes sense. The attitude and orientation we must have today is a focus on how everyone (general educators, special educators, families, the student with a disability, administrators, etc.) can work to make high school and postsecondary opportunities successful and inclusive for all.

Copyright 2012 © by PEAK Parent Center, Inc. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce may be obtained from PEAK Parent Center.